Virus death toll hits 500,000, LA shuts bars again

PARIS • More than half a million people have died in the coronavirus pandemic, an AFP tally showed on Sunday, as bars in Los Angeles (LA) were ordered to close again due to surging cases in the US.

The worldwide number of recorded infections is now just over 10 million from the virus that first emerged in China late last year, with fears growing of a full-blown second wave. The rate of contagion has doubled since May 21.

One million new infections were recorded in just six days, according to the AFP count based on official sources, even as some countries loosen punishing lockdowns that have devastated their economies and thrown millions out of work.

The US, the hardest-hit country, has more than 2.5 million cases alone, and efforts to reopen the world’s biggest economy have been set back by a jump in new infections in big states such as Florida and California.

President Donald Trump was under growing pressure to set an example by wearing a face mask as his health secretary warned the “window is closing” for the country to gain control of the situation.

The disease is also rampaging through Latin America, where Brazil alone has over 1.3 million cases.

Infections are up too in some other parts of the world that have reopened, with Europe registering a caseload of over 2.6 million, although daily rates have stabilised.

The US state of California was the latest authority to reimpose restrictions, ordering bars in LA and six other counties — an area with 13.5 million residents — to close because of the rising number of cases.

The hardest-hit parts of the US are in the south and west, where many state leaders have pushed for early economic reopenings.

But LA, the second-largest US city, only reopened its bars on June 19.

California had already ordered some areas to reinstate stay-at-home orders, while San Fran- cisco announced a “pause” in its reopening.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis conceded there had been an “explosion” in new cases as the state notched a record 9,585 cases in 24 hours.

Young people frustrated by months of confinement have poured back to the state’s beaches, boardwalks and bars, often without masks and seemingly unconcerned about social distancing.

Miami announced beaches would close over the July 4 holiday weekend and bars are also shutting their doors. — AFP